I’ve found over the years that out of the music that that I write and publish, the songs that other people point out as liking the most are my least favorite. I was thinking that maybe this had something to do with taste. That sounds obvious, I know, but I wanted to make the point that I write whatever comes out, whether or not it’s something I would listen to. This led me to believe that perhaps I should look into writing songs for other people. Once I started thinking about it, the less this made sense to me. I wouldn’t write a song and make the decision to publish it if it wasn’t something that I thought represented my tastes. Anything that comes out of me creatively is something that I would enjoy.
But there have been instances, however, that I put songs out there that I knew could stand some improvement. As I’m not a professional recording artist (yet, maybe?) I can easily justify releasing said work. I tend to think that if I take the project further maybe I can go back to the songs and re-record or in some cases revise them, and nobody would hold it against me. My only problem is that I get distracted easily and move on to the next thing rather quickly. I’m getting better at dealing with that bad habit when writing fiction, but I need to work on my music more. I started examining the songs that fit what I’m talking about and I’m going to focus on two examples today: “The Tea Song” and “Vulture.”
Mike and I recorded “The Tea Song” on the first Popkin-Salvador release–if you can even call it that–over ten years go. Mike and I have played that CD for multiple people, who always point out “The Tea Song” as their favorite. Yet that’s my least favorite off that disc. I remember the lyrics coming to me almost all at once when I wrote that, and I was rather pleased with what we did with then. In my mind, however, that song is far from finished. It could easily be at least twice as long, and I have half a guitar solo already playing in my head when I think of the song. I’m heading out to see Mike in Seattle in June. My goal is to bring some material to record, including a fuller version of that song. If we don’t decide to slack off for the week, that is.
“Vulture” is on the latest Shadows of Immurement album, which you can listen to here (sorry, I’m having trouble finding my copy of “The Tea Song” so I haven’t uploaded it yet). The song was in my head, or at least an idea of it, whenever I imagined myself playing “I Want You” live. I kept thinking of a repetitive song with that chorus immediately following it. I went and wrote it, but in a rush. The lyrics ended up not making any sense. They were supposed to be about the government, comparing it to a gold-digger with the additional imagery of said gold-digger being a vulture. I got so caught up in the metaphors that I forgot what I was even trying to say about the government in the first place. Musically it works quite well. The only problem is that it ended up sounding too much like its influence, “Lucretia My Reflection” by Sisters of Mercy. At least it does to me.
When I analyse this problem, it occurs to me that I’m getting too caught up in the history of the songwriting as opposed to how somebody might listen to it. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about the lyrics of “Vulture.” I’ve written purposely nonsensical lyrics before. The fact that I want to expand “The Tea Song” could mean that I also agree that it’s a good song that’s worth adding to. It’s hard for me to listen to the songs I write as an audience member. I always maintain that everything I do is for myself. As true as that is, I still want others to hear it. I want an audience, despite not making any money off of my work (again, not yet). Still, I don’t want to fall into the trap of writing only for them. It’s when artists start writing music for the sake of their audience that they lose me. It sounds cheaper. I have to watch myself.